My fear of looking stupid.

Since I was a little girl, I’ve been afraid 🙈 of looking stupid.  

It started in 3rd grade with the popular math game “Around the World.” Processing math quickly when put on the spot sent me into a panic. I made a huge math error, and the entire class laughed and called me stupid.  It was a day no one would remember in that class except me and my nervous system.  

And while it’s the first time I can remember feeling that way, it certainly wasn’t the last. Especially when you consider I was an awkward, nerdy, clumsy kid with no hand-eye coordination.  

As you can imagine, this incident is part of the origin story of my perfectionist. If I didn’t do anything wrong, I couldn’t be laughed at, right?  So, I’d try to control how I was perceived (which you can’t possibly do) and spend lots of time and energy ensuring I wasn’t making mistakes. Oh, the futility! I would panic at anything unscripted and would only say yes to things that I felt some degree of safety or confidence.  

Humans don’t like to feel discomfort. And I certainly do not. But trying to avoid feeling or looking stupid means you create a much smaller window of life experiences to try to avoid fear and discomfort.  

Over the years, I’ve developed my self-compassion to be okay with making mistakes. I’ve worked on shifting my perspective, practicing public speaking, and watching my thoughts and mindset.  These are pivotal practices for anyone with the same fear. 

Given my training in human potential and personal development, I KNOW the benefits of getting uncomfortable and learning. But I will still prioritize my comfort more often than not.  If that’s you too, know that it’s ok. The last thing we need is another reason to feel bad or beat ourselves up for not being or doing enough.  

In today’s increasingly stressful world, we have to tend to our nervous systems. Being uncomfortable and constantly activating our sympathetic nervous system on alert would do more harm than good.  

If I want to stay true to my theme of the year and elevate🙌🏻 the status quo, I want to increase my capacity for discomfort to grow. 

There was a study in 2022 published in Psychological Science where the authors theorized that instead of tolerating discomfort, people sought it out in personal growth opportunities to increase motivation. Those who did were more engaged in their activities, made more progress on their goals, and felt more motivated to persevere.  

Interesting right? 

My friend Janice Rous introduced me to the term  “beneficial discomfort.”  Embracing discomfort can support us to be more resilient, feel more motivated, learn about opposing views, take more creative risks, and enhance our overall well-being. I want that. I don't want to be rigid and small. I want to remain flexible, open, and willing to change and grow as I age.

I’m currently working on finding ways to increase my capacity for discomfort without sending my nervous system into overdrive. 

Because I believe in celebrating and acknowledging our baby steps and wins in life (as opposed to dismissing them as no big deal or not enough), I want to tell you about a couple of things I did to embrace beneficial discomfort.  

  1. 🎉I signed up to do archery 🏹one afternoon. I was terrible.  I was uncomfortable. Twice, I put the arrow the wrong way on the bow.   I only hit the actual target twice. Yet, I  coached myself into having fun with it and reminding myself to enjoy the adventure of a new experience and that it's ok to suck as you learn. It turns out I’d gladly do it again. I’m more likely to be better next time, right?

  2. 🎉I am taking a tap class💃🏻 at the Orlando Ballet.  It's a five-week workshop as the pre-cursor to beginner tap. I bought my tap shoes and, on Monday, completed week 2.  It felt nerve-wracking and exhilarating. Sure, I  can’t remember all the choreography. I had difficulty balancing, and I got really nervous when we had to do improvisation in a circle and move across the floor in a line of 5.  But I did it. At the end of the class this week, I felt proud of myself, and that’s motivating. 

  3. 🎉I did something “social”🤝🏻five days in a row. And by social, I don’t mean on Instagram; I mean I left my house and interacted with real humans. That was a lot of energy output, and while I felt resistance and discomfort, I was also reminded of how much our relationships and the energy exchange with other humans is part of our vitality. 

Now, it’s your turn. How have you embraced some beneficial discomfort in the past month?


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